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Hundreds of people could have been exposed to measles at California hospital

Hundreds of people could have been exposed to measles at California hospital

Around 300 people could have been exposed to measles at a California hospital over the space of five hours, with officials now frantically contacting all those potentially affected.

A child with the illness was being treated in the emergency department at UC Davis Health in Sacramento on 5 March, with officials then announcing Friday that there may have been 300 exposures during that time.

Sacramento County Public Health said in a statement that unvaccinated individuals who were in the department between 12pm and 5pm that day could develop symptoms anytime between 7 and 21 days.

Officials in nearby El Dorado County are also involved in the effort to control the situation, as some of its residents may have been exposed as well.

"We will be receiving a list of those who were confirmed at the UC Davis Emergency Department at that time and will be contacting those individuals for further instructions," Dr. Matthew Minson, El Dorado County’s Public Health Officer, said in a press release.

"Please do not go directly to the emergency department as that could increase spread and put others at risk.”

The condition is highly contagious and begins with a mild-to-moderate fever, along with a cough, runny nose and red or watery eyes.

That can escalate after a few days, with patients experiencing a red, blotchy rash all over their skin. Those with measles can be infectious from four days before the rash appears to four days after.

Measles cases have steadily been on the rise across the United States over the past year.

Since the start of 2024, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recorded 45 cases, compared to 58 for the whole of 2023.

The cases have been found in 17 states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, Washington and California.

The US has maintained “measles elimination” for 20 years, but that has been put at risk by the recent increase in cases. Experts have put this down to a drop in the number of children being vaccinated against the disease.

Similar rises have been reported around the world, with the World Health Organisation saying in January that the trend will only continue if parents do not vaccinate their children.

The CDC says that around 1 in 5 people who are unvaccinated can end up being hospitalised.

Before the Measles vaccine, between three and four million people in the US contracted measles each year, with around half a million officially reported. Of those, between 400 and 500 died each year, while thousands more were hospitalised.